The 19th-century Bengali mystic Ramakrishna played a major role in the development of Hinduism and is regarded as a modern saint. Yet he remains an enigma to followers unable to reconcile his saintly status with his eroticized language and actions. In this work, Jeffrey J. Kripal attempts to untangle the paradox. He demonstrates that Ramakrishna's famous mystical experiences were driven by erotic energies that he neither fully accepted nor understood; the key to understanding him, Kripal argues, lies in Tantra and its ritual, symbolic and doctrinal equation of the mystical and the erotic. Moving through Ramakrishna's world both chronologically and conceptually, this book employs two complementary interpretive strategies: a nuanced phenomenological reinterpretation of original Bengali texts and a non-reductive psychoanalytic reading of Ramakrishna's mystical eroticism. Kripal shows how the heterosexual structure of Tantric symbolism, the abusive way its rituals were often forced upon the saint, and Ramakrishna's own homosexual desires all came together to produce in him profound feelings of shame, disgust and fear. Kripal establishes that the homosexuality of this great, if unwilling, Tantric mystic is linked inextricably to virtually every aspect of his life and teachings.
University of Chicago Press
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